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5 Biggest Mistakes Employees Make During Year-End Performance Reviews

Suzanne Lucas

If you're like most people, you don't look forward to the annual review.

Many managers hold onto all their criticism and praise for the annual performance review, which makes employees nervous.

Lots of companies tie their annual increase programs to the performance reviews, so there's anxiety around that too.

But, anyway, performance reviews are a manager's job, right?

Related Article: Break Free from Performance Management Shackles: Companies That Are Paving the Way

Well, yes. The manager has to write and give the reviews, but the employee has a role as well. And your role in that can make the difference between career progression and career stagnation. This is your best opportunity to have one on one contact with your manager, with your manager focused on you--not just on your projects and assignments.

Maureen Hoersten, Chief Revenue Officer at LaSalle Network, a staffing and recruiting firm headquartered in Chicago, was gracious enough to share what she sees as the top five mistakes people make in the annual review process:

1. Not Asking the Right Questions

The employee should come prepared with a list of questions they want to ask their manager, and that doesn’t include, “Can I get a promotion?” Instead, they should be asking specific questions like what am I lacking, what is your perception is of me, or here is what I view as my strengths and my weaknesses; do you agree or disagree? Here’s how I think I can improve; do you have other suggestions? Other questions could be, how do you feel I am collaborating with my co-workers, do you feel I am adding value, what do you feel has been something I excelled in, what was something I struggled with/failed at and what could I have done better? 

This may bring up constructive feedback, and that is okay! Employees need to want to hear the ‘bad’ because that’s what will help them grow. The key is not to get defensive when receiving feedback because oftentimes this doesn’t allow us to fully understand what we need to do to get better.

2. Not Preparing Goals Correctly

Employees should share how their future goals will help to achieve the company’s goals. For instance, if the company’s goal is to reach $100M in revenue by the end of next year, how is the work they are doing going to help achieve that? Also, employees should discuss previous accomplishments and how those have contributed to the company goals. If you don’t know any goals, ask!

Related Article: 14 Tools to Track Key Performance Indicators for Your Business

3. Not Giving Managers Feedback

Employees should be open and honest during reviews. If they’re not getting something that could help them grow, like more one-on-one time with their manager or different resources, they should share that. If they don’t like how their manager communicates with them, talk about it. If the employee isn’t happy, they should say so. Reviews should be a two-way conversation, so don’t be afraid to give feedback.  However, don’t just bring up the topic, bring solutions, too.    

4. Not Roleplaying Beforehand

If the employee plans to bring up a topic that is hard for them to address, they should role play that conversation beforehand, whether it’s with family, friends, or a peer they trust at the organization.  Practice responses from all angles...being a pessimist isn’t a bad thing in this case. No response, bad responses, or good responses, be thinking about all possible responses.

5. Not Following Up

After the review, employees should send their manager an email recapping the conversation and any next steps discussed. Also, if the manager suggests that the employee start doing something, whether it’s getting to know other employees, or reading a monthly industry report, they should execute it. More times than not, it’s something that will help them further grow and develop as opposed to just being busy work. Then share what you have been doing in recaps or informally.

Do any of these sound like things you've done? They can really make a difference in how your manager perceives you and what your "permanent" record says about you. Did you know that when you apply for internal transfers (either lateral or promotions) that the hiring manager often checks out your performance reviews from previous years? If yours is top notch, that will help your career progress.

Remember, that performance reviews aren't like a one and done report card from 7th grade. They should be an integral part of your career goals. It's an opportunity to learn what you need to do to improve and then actually make those improvements.  The follow-up is probably the most critical. If you don't follow up with your manager until the next year's performance review, you won't know if you're on the right path, and your manager won't see the progress you're making. Remember, managers are busy doing their own jobs and don't notice everything you do.

Related Article: 14 Best Tools to Measure Employee Performance

Instead of dreading your annual review, prepare as Hoersten suggests and use it as an opportunity for true growth! These ideas work for people at all levels, from the shelf stocker at the local grocery store to the senior vice president. It's your opportunity, so take advantage of it.

Image Credit: Fizkes / Getty Images
Suzanne Lucas Member
Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate HR where she hired, fired, managed the numbers and double-checked with the lawyers. She now writes about how to make your business a success and your employees happy. Send her an email at